Archives For May 2010

Just finished reading a great book by Larry Osborne on my Kindle. Sticky Teams: Keeping Your Leadership Team and Staff on the Same Page was one of the most practical books for church leadership that I have read. I was constantly highlighting and taking notes as I read. This is not a deep theological treatment of the roles of elders, pastors, and deacons, but instead it is focuses on the practical side of how you work together and build unity to advance the Kingdom.

I liked it so much, that I have ordered copies for everyone on our elder board at Cornerstone so we can work through it together. In a new and growing church, you encounter so many issues that you don’t foresee happening. This book shares a lot of wisdom about what their church learned as they grew. Unfortunately, I have already learned many of the book’s lessons the hard way. But this book has helped me to think strategically about the future of our church and my role as the Pastor. You simply have to learn how to adapt and change leadership style and roles as your church grows if you want to maintain unity.

I think the best way to share what I learned is to share some of my highlights. (This is one of the great features of the Kindle, you can just cut and paste your notes and highlights from the Kindle website.)

  • my deep conviction that the health and long-term effectiveness of any ministry begins with the health and unity of its primary leadership teams.
  • There are three component of a healthy and unified team – Doctrinal unity, Respect and friendship, and Philosophical unity
  • Finally, I’d had enough. I told the board that as far as I was concerned, the “theys” no longer existed. I’d happily listen to comments and critiques from people with real names and faces. But nebulous theys who didn’t want their identity known and hypothetical theys we couldn’t identify would no longer have any sway.
  • Rather than trying to figure out what everybody wants them to do, leadership teams have only one question: what does God want us to do?
  • Just because people are spiritually mature doesn’t mean they’ll work well together.
  • Wise pastors and leadership teams know an important paradox of leadership: church harmony is inversely related to the amount of time spent oiling squeaky wheels.
  • Overly restrictive constitutions and bylaws reveal a profound lack of trust. It’s as if those who write them trust God’s ability to lead in their own life but not his ability to lead in the life of the next group of leaders. So to keep future leaders from going astray, they put in all kinds of detailed regulations and procedures that make sense today but that will make no sense tomorrow.
  • But one thing is certain. Everyone needs to agree on the pastor’s role. Otherwise, as we’ve already seen, it won’t be long until dysfunction and conflict break out.
  • That’s why I’ve committed myself to follow three key guidelines. (1) Present first drafts, not final proposals  (2) Keep no secrets from the board  (3) Follow the board’s advice These guidelines ensure that my leadership has boundaries and help keep me accountable. They also go a long way toward allaying the fears of those who are suspicious of strong leadership.
  • Research has consistently shown that strong pastoral leadership is a key ingredient in virtually every healthy and growing church. But this leadership can’t be demanded or taken. It has to be granted.
  • The primary role of the board will always be the same: to determine God’s will and then see that it’s carried out.
  • The strongest indicators that it’s time to consider changing the primary role of the board are (1) a marked increase in conflict and frustration while making decisions and (2) meetings that drag on forever.
  • Previously, whenever I taught or instructed our leaders, I aimed at their hearts. Most everything was of a devotional nature. But now I aimed at their role. Armed with the new goal of equipping our board members for their specific job as church leaders, I began to teach and convey the leadership principles others had poured into me.
  • But even when I’m absolutely convinced that something is God’s will, I check one more thing: is this God’s timing? I’ve learned that God’s will has a what and a when. The question of timing is often answered during the testing-the-waters stage.

This is just a small sampling of what you’ll find in the book. I read it in two days because I simply couldn’t put it down.

Youth Group Struggles

May 19, 2010 — 3 Comments

Most Christian blog writers tell you how great everything is going in their churches. I want to switch things up and tell you a little about one of our struggles this year in the hope it may help some of my readers. First, I need to give a little background. I started working with teenagers in youth ministry 14 years ago. I have spent countless hours hanging out with teens, riding in 15 passenger vans, and doing way too many gross games that involved food. This blog even started out when I was in youth ministry. But 3 years ago, I accepted the call to pastor the church I’m now at. Since that time, I have juggled youth responsibilities with the responsibilities of pastoring and leading a church, and I haven’t always done a good job.

With the start of this past school year, we made quite a few changes. In hindsight, we made way too many changes at the same time. The effect has been that our Sr. High youth group has really struggled through this school year. In fact, it has been one of the most frustrating years ever for me in youth ministry. So what happened and what have I learned from it.

  • We graduated a huge class of seniors last year. I neglected the impact that it would cause on the group. Losing that many leaders at one time really created a sense of loss for the group. We didn’t do a good job of preparing the current students to rise up and take leadership.
  • We changed the time and structure of our meetings. This may seem like a small change, but we moved it too early on Sunday. We currently meet from 4:30 to 6, before our 6pm Sunday night service, and that just hasn’t worked. We wanted to change the main meeting time to mid-week, but because of scheduling problems, we couldn’t make it happen. I’m not sure what to do next year, but it won’t continue at the current time for our Sr. High group.
  • I stepped back from teaching and leading the youth and got more people involved. This was a very positive change, but yet it was still a change. It made things a little rough at the beginning of the year and it took some time for the youth to get comfortable with the new leaders.

Looking back, I think our group would have been fine with just one or two of these changes, but when combined, the changes posed some serious problems. We really do have a great group of students, but things just haven’t worked out the way we intended. It is going to take some work to regain momentum for the summer and for the next school year, but I am also excited about the possibilities. I know the teens in our group have a huge potential and God can definitely stir them up to do great things for the Kingdom.

And lastly, it’s not been all frustrating. Our Jr. High/Middle School group has had a wonderful year. It has grown and continues to be strong. We had some great leaders step up and serve (thanks Ed and Veronica!) and I’m confident that it will continue to grow. I’m just a little nervous because my daughter will be in that group next year. :-)

Hopefully this may help some of you who are planting churches and juggling responsibilities. Please share your thoughts on youth ministry in the comments below.

Cornerstone has a very active and dedicated Missions team. From serving our community to multiple trips to the Gulf Coast to help with the Katrina devastation, to multiple trips to Costa Rica and Nicaragua, our church has a true vision for showing the love of Christ to our community and world. Our church even helped build a church in Nicaragua and starting paying the salary of their pastor before I was hired and before we moved into our own building!

One of the goals for our mission team has been to create a central website that lists mission and service opportunities for our area. We launched MissionCentral.net this weekend to our church and plan on sharing it with all the local churches and ministries over the next few weeks and months. Here’s the intro from the site:

This site was created by Cornerstone Community Church so local churches and ministries can share mission opportunities. We want to be a resource to help you learn more about how you can make a difference in the lives of others.

For this site to be successful, we need your help. Please submit information about local ministries, about upcoming mission trips, and about local service opportunities. We have even bigger plans for this site, so continue checking back as we make improvements and add information.

Check out the site and let me know what you think. I’m excited about the missional opportunities this site will provide to bring together churches to serve our community. Churches must cooperate more and compete less, and this is definitely a step in the right direction.

Missioncentral.net screenshot

for my technology friends, I created the website in WordPress on the excellent Diarise Theme by WooThemes

StudentLife is a great organization for youth workers and they have put together an informative video on current youth culture. The truth is that today’s culture is changing rapidly due to the use of internet and media. Over the last 15 years, I have seen a huge change in the youth in our small rural community. Our teenagers used to lag behind contemporary youth culture by months or even years due to our isolation from the outside world. Now, with the rise of social networking and the internet, our teens hold the same worldview as others from around the country, and their beliefs are shaped and changed quickly. It’s scary, but it’s reality. If you have a passion for seeing teenagers come to Christ, then I encourage you to watch this video. This would also be helpful for parents of teens as well

ht to Josh for the link

This video is why the church must be serious about utilizing technology if they wish the reach the next generation. The world is rapidly changing and just as the printing press revolutionized the way the church shared the Gospel, the internet must shape our methods today.

This video really cracked me up. I’ve seen several people share it over the last few days, so I thought  I would pass it along. Satire has a way of loosening our defenses so we can hear truth, and I think this video does a good job of that. We must be careful to check our motives and not fall into the “coolness” trap.  Let me know what you think.

I shared the story last week in church about a conversation I overheard between my son and my nephew last year.  Boys typically think that their dads can do anything, and this conversation was no exception. They were talking about all the things their dads could do when my nephew Todd shared that his dad was a chef at a restaurant.  My son Luke stopped to think a minute, and then shared that his dad didn’t work anymore because he was a preacher. OUCH! Kids can be honest, but it does show that ministry has a perception problem.

The truth is that ministry is hard work. But the work is different and few people understand the challenges ministers face. The biggest change I’ve noticed from the corporate engineering world is the lack of a set schedule that most ministers deal with. Engineering was a demanding career that I loved, but when I left work each evening, I didn’t have to deal with anything until the next day. In ministry, you juggle meetings at night, unexpected pastoral care calls, study time, devotion time, and family time. My mind is constantly thinking about church and the vision and direction we are setting. And you’re still expected to share a great message from God each and every week, because Sunday really does come every week. In smaller churches, the pastor is expected to be able to do a little of everything, and you face constant challenges of training and equipping people to really do the work of the church as Ephesians 4:11-12 commands.  The job of a leader is never done.

I feel that you have to be called to ministry, otherwise there is no way you can stick with it. The demands are high, and there are plenty of people who have high expectations and aren’t afraid to let you know it. You need to have thick skin and a soft heart. My advice to anyone considering ministry is to not even consider it, unless you are willing to work hard and you feel that God is truly calling you into His service as a career. For me, there is no doubt that I’m doing what God created me to do. I love making an eternal difference in people’s lives, and I’m excited to play a small role in God’s plan for our community and church. I truly believe that ministry is not work, it is a way of life. But to live your life in obedience to God’s calling takes a huge commitment and a willingness to work hard.